When in Doubt, Grok It!

by Stephanie Rewis on June 19, 2005

I don't know how many of your tried Grokker in its first permutation (it had to be downloaded and installed and didn't work well for me on the Mac at all), but I got a note this week that they've relaunched. Since all my company just left and I'm exhausted, I thought I'd have a look. I was pretty impressed with the improvements.

I suppose I should have started, for those that don't know, by answering the question, “What the heck is Grokker?” Grokker reminds me a bit of my old favorite search engine, Northern Lights. I loved Northern Lights because it categorized my search results into folders. Thus, if there was a variety of subjects my search words could apply to, I could quickly see them, click the folder for the one closest to what I was looking for and drill down from there. It's a shame they went private.

Anyway, Grokker does similar, by showing the relationships generated by your search. You can customize it, but by default, it will show you orbs and squares inside circles (which represent the sites that fall into those subject/categories), labeled with the category name. You can drill/zoom down into these and see more. Hovering shows you the details of the link you're over. If a page appears in more than one circle, when you hover over it, it will light up in the other circle as well. I realize it's late, I'm tired, and this likely isn't making any sense at all. Hey, it's a visual tool — have a look at the features yourself.

One of the main things I like now though, is that I don't have to download it as a stand alone. I can now use it on the web. There are advantages to downloading if you decide you really love it. You can share your map with a friend and Grokker will save it more than the 14 days it's saved in the web-based version. The free-standing “for purchase” version is much more full-featured and looks like it would be great for research and serious use, but the online search is excellent for simple searches and checking Grokker out.

I found that on a Mac, since Grokker is Java-based, Safari works very smoothly (Firefox didn't seem to know I had Java). The only negatives to me are, the results are pulled from the Yahoo! Search results (that's probably fine, I just prefer Google), and I can't do a text search for something specific within my results page (since it's a Java visual). But for certain types of searches, this is very cool. If you're a visual person, or doing a good deal of research on a specific subject, you owe it to yourself to view this cool little search tool.

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